Honoring the Preserver of California’s Historical Gold

by Jody Godoy '05

On November 6, California history enthusiasts and library administrators from throughout Southern California gathered at Azusa Pacific’s Darling Library to honor renowned publisher, Glen Dawson. Azusa Pacific holds a significant number of Dawson’s publications as part of its Special Collection, the 6,300-item holding of American West and California History items.

Dawson was born in 1912, and grew up joining his father, then president of the Sierra Club, on Sierra Club trips. He loved mountain climbing, and was later in the party that made the first ascent of the east face of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. In addition to his love of the outdoors, Glen cultivated a "keen sense of history," majoring in the subject at the University of California, Los Angeles.

During his career, Dawson published more than 300 titles, most of which were on California history. Dawson’s involvement in the publishing industry began in his father’s store, Dawson’s Bookshop, established in 1905. The bookshop blossomed into an essential source for collectors of California and Western American history. Executive Director of the Historical Society of Southern California, Tom Andrews, Ph.D., described Dawson as "the key figure in the book world of Los Angeles."

"In publishing, you’re creating something that wouldn’t be done unless you did it yourself," said Dawson, explaining that many books he published had some connection to the suggestion of customers. The range of detail and specificity in Dawson’s publications on California are impressive; his Los Angeles Miscellany series includes titles such as The Art of Street Lighting in Los Angeles, and Early Cemeteries of the City of Los Angeles.

Dawson, who celebrated his 90th birthday in June, said his favorite publication was the Early California Travel series. "Published on a shoestring" using a variety of different printers, the 50 volume series tells the stories of travelers from many different nations who took part in the exploration and settlement of California.